Tuktoyaktuk asks for territorial support for buses from Reindeer Point

·3 min read
A house being relocated is seen behind Tuktoyaktuk's sign for the Arctic Ocean. More residents have been forced to relocate to the subdivision of Reindeer Point, roughly seven kilometres from the hamlet's main area, as erosion threatens houses on the community's coastline.
A house being relocated is seen behind Tuktoyaktuk's sign for the Arctic Ocean. More residents have been forced to relocate to the subdivision of Reindeer Point, roughly seven kilometres from the hamlet's main area, as erosion threatens houses on the community's coastline.

(Erin Felix - image credit)

Because of coastal erosion in the community of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., new housing is being built and old housing relocated to Reindeer Point, a subdivision in the hamlet.

But services like groceries and the health clinic are located about an hour walk away, in the main part of the community.

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson raised the issue to Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Paulie Chinna at the legislature on Friday.

"The residents that live at Reindeer Point at Tuktoyaktuk are seven kilometres outside of the community," he said.

Jacobson said that it costs the hamlet about $57,000 a year to run a bus to make sure that people are safely able to get to the hamlet instead of walking.

"The hamlet has been running the busing service for the last few years at capital loss, using their funds," he said.

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Google Earth

Although Reindeer Point has had homes there since about the 1990s, Jacobson said it's really been in the last couple of years that there's been an increase in houses there, due to coastal erosion in the older part of the hamlet.

Jacobson alleged when he was a hamlet councilor in the early 2000s, the territorial government and hamlet struck a deal that the territorial government would help cover the costs of a bus, since they knew they would have to relocate the community to higher ground.

"It never did get put into paper and we've been trying to find funding ever since," he said. "It's been a drawback on the community."

"They should be providing the community of Tuktoyaktuk for busing…. Last week it was 63 [degrees Celsius] below and it's pretty tough on the constituents," Jacobson said.

Residents forced to relocate

Erwin Elias, mayor of Tuktoyaktuk, said what's frustrating about the situation is that people who are on the list for public housing don't have a choice.

"When your name comes up and you say, 'Well, I don't want to stay at Reindeer Point,' then you are back at the bottom of the list and you could wait two to three years to have another chance again," he said. "So it's almost like being held hostage right?"

"These people know they are going to have a hell of a time to get back to the community but they need a place to stay…. I think there's something wrong there."

Elias said this year the hamlet and the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation have both put in funds to keep the bus going in the community.

However, due to the cost to keep the bus running, they aren't able to put money into other needs, like a bylaw officer and a lands officer.

Mackenzie Scott/CBC
Mackenzie Scott/CBC

"We are juggling everything here, to try and make things work.... At the end of the day, we don't have a budget for it," he said.

Elias said this is an issue that's been brought up many times.

He said when Premier Caroline Cochrane was briefly in charge of the MACA portfolio last year, the response they got back was to take it out of the community's yearly funding.

Elias said Minister Chinna did respond to him and they are still waiting to hear back from her about possible solutions.

Minister Chinna said during Friday's session that they don't have specific funding for busing services, but is looking into the issue.

"I would like to take another look at their business plan and what my department has created with the hamlet out of that — looking to see what kind of funding we could possibly be looking at," she said.

She also said they are having conversations with the federal government about additional funding for smaller communities.